Monday, August 31, 2015

On the Death of a Child

          Recently I was asked to conduct the funeral service for a baby girl. Mandy and I – having endured our own loss in this area – have made it a point to reach out to those in similar situations in their grief. The parents, a local pastor and and his wife, had contacted us as their still unborn daughter's situation deteriorated. We did our best to be a blessing and to point them in the direction of God's comfort. They are undergoing the worst of times right now but I am confident that with God's grace they will come through. As I sat down to prepare for the funeral I wanted to make the service personal and as sweet as possible. Taking the story of David and Bathsheba's loss as my text I unfolded it in the course of the message. To me, the great comfort of that passage is the certainty David expressed about joining his child in Heaven. Late at night, with only the ticking of my living room clock accompanying me, I penned these words to close the message.

The peaceful Pennsylvania hillside where my daughter Abigail is buried

"I shall go to him"
With heartbreak David said
He wiped the tears from off his face
And took a bite of bread

For seven days he'd prayed
He'd lain upon the ground
His heart inside was broken
His soul with sorrow crowned

The little boy lay lifeless
His breath stilled once for all
His tiny face unmoving
Where death had cast its pall

A week he'd graced this Earth
Short and none too sweet
His eyes now closed in death
His heart had ceased to beat

The awful news soon spread
Throughout the palace round
David's servants feared to tell him
Afraid to make a sound

His grief had been so sharp
He'd nearly come unhinged
Afraid to bear the message
Against the wall they cringed

Yet deep in David's grief
He noticed their discussion
He heard their conversation
And whispered them a question

"Is the child dead?
Is the boy departed?
Has his life now ended?
For Heaven has he started?"

In sadness servants answered
Their hearts all filled with woe
Yet face the truth they must
They gently dealt the blow

Long moments he lay quiet
The storm it howled and battered
Seeking to gain purchase
Within a heart now shattered

Then up he picked himself
Rising from the floor
Through a mist of tears
He stumbled toward the door

A week's long worth of grime
Swirled right down the drain
And with it all the hope
Replaced by piercing pain

Weeping for a night
Yea, seven in a row
His tears now mingled fresh
With water and with woe

In stillness loud he dressed
His motion heedless slow
His mind was in a fog
Numb misery did grow

He'd begged, O how he'd begged
He'd fasted, wept, and prayed
Screamed in desperation
Alone, unkempt, afraid

Yet God had paid no mind
Careless of David's pang
Heaven's door stayed close
No matter how he rang

Now cleansed and clothed he crawled
To worship he went crying
His body vertical
Inside his spirit dying

He slumped into his seat
Lifelong habit driven
Despair sat down beside him
Inside his heart was riven

Hark now the anthem chorus
Raised by Asaph's singers
Perhaps a psalm of David's
Harps played with skillful fingers

Unseen into his soul
Peace steals on quiet feet
Her twin of comfort too
Arrives and soon they meet

Inside of David's heart
They take up residence
Ushered in by faith
They bide and ne'er go hence

The tears still flow but now
No longer filled with torment
Instead hope rises winging
To heaven thoughts now bent

With pace anew and quickened
He turns to his abode
His servants note the difference
Puzzled how he rode

On sorrow's wings on leaving
On hope's when he returned
What caused this different feeling?
What in the Temple learned?

Summoning their courage
One of their number braced him
"David, why the change?
What caused your pain to dim?

Why have you forsaken
The grief that laid you low?
Why have you washed and eaten?
Why don't your tears still flow?"

In quiet calm he answered
With heart still hurt but hopeful
He looked into their faces
Spoke words serene and helpful

"I shall go to him"
With heartbreak David said
He wiped the tears from off his face
And took a bite of bread

Dear hearts who gather here
In mourning and in sorrow
I bid you lift your spirits
The Balm of Gilead borrow

Let peace and comfort enter
Bid faith and hope walk in
Remind yourself of Heaven
No night, no pain, no sin

No crepe upon the doorknob
Death's gone and won't return
Abundant life eternal
God's promise sure and firm

Charissa Lynn is waiting
Cross Jordan's far bright shore
She will not come to us
But we will go to her

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